Key figures in the German debate

In: Uncategorized

18 Jul 2012

This is a text box that accompanied my recent Fund Strategy cover story on Germany.

Although this article has generalised about German economic policy there are of course differences within the German leadership. These are some of the key figures in the debate.

Angela Merkel. Chancellor and chairwoman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union since 2005. She was brought up in the former East German where her father was a Lutheran priest and her mother a teacher. By profession she was a chemist before entering politics. Has vowed that there will be no eurobonds as longs as she lives.

Wolfgang Schäuble. Finance minister. Has served in German governments since the 1980s. Has been wheelchair-bound since an assassination attempt in 1990. Has publically rebuked Barack Obama’s call for Germany to bolster financial backing for the eurozone by saying that America should get its own economy in order. Recently argued that Germany would at some point have to hold a referendum on the transfer of more power to Brussels.

Horst Seehofer. The governor of Bavaria and the head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the conservative Christian Social Union. Critical of the extent of German funding for euro rescue packages. Has threatened to leave the coalition if Merkel makes any more concessions.

Philipp Rösler. The leader of the CDU’s junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP) as well as the federal minister of economics and technology. The FDP is the most pro free market of Germany’s political parties. Rösler was born in Vietnam but adopted by a German couple as a baby.

Sigmar Gabriel. The leader of Germany’s opposition Social Democrats (SPD). Strong supporter of greater integration within the eurozone and pan-European bank supervision. Advocate of a financial transaction tax. Argues that in practice the ECB has already created eurobonds.

Jürgen Trittin. A co-leader of the opposition Green party (die Grünen). In favour of the early introduction of eurobonds as a move towards closer European integration. Supports austerity as balanced budgets are in line with the party’s attachment to sustainable economics. Supports a financial transactions tax and opposed to bonuses in financial institutions.

Jens Weidmann. President of the Bundesbank. A former economic adviser to Angela Merkel who has become a staunch critics of the ECB policy buying the bonds of troubled eurozone countries. His predecessor, Axel Weber, who shared his views, resigned before completing his term. The same applies to Jürgen Stark, the former chief economist at the ECB.

Hans-Werner Sinn. President of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich. One of Germany’s most prominent economists. Organised a recent open letter by economists to the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper which argued that Merkel had moved Germany dangerously close to a “banking union”. In response two other groups of economists came out in support of Merkel.

Markus Kerber. The chief executive of the Federation of German Industries (BDI – Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie). Has broadly supported the federal government’s stance on the eurozone including its insistence that fiscal consolidation is a precondition for growth.